London – Manchester United and Leicester City strengthened their hold on top-four places in the Premier League with wins yesterday but Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes diminished as they lost at Arsenal in the north London derby.
An own goal by Craig Dawson gave United a 1-0 home win over fifth-placed West Ham United after Leicester City had thrashed visiting bottom club Sheffield United 5-0 to briefly go second.
Tottenham had the chance to go fifth but lost 2-1 at Arsenal despite a stunning Erik Lamela goal.
The Argentine produced an exquisite ‘Rabona’ in the 33rd minute to put Spurs in front but was later sent off after a Martin Odegaard strike and Alexander Lacazette’s penalty had turned the game around for the Gunners.
“The goal was sensational no doubt. But the most important thing is the result and we lost the game,” Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho said after his team’s five-game winning run in all competitions came to a disappointing end.
In the day’s early kickoff, Brighton & Hove Albion secured a valuable 2-1 win at Southampton to move three points above third-bottom Fulham in the battle to avoid relegation.
With fourth-placed Chelsea drawing and sixth-placed Everton losing on Saturday, United and Leicester had the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the teams directly below them in the table.
West Ham also had every incentive at Old Trafford knowing victory would put them level on points with Chelsea and with a game in hand. But it was a familiar tale of disappointment for their boss David Moyes who has now failed to win in 14 league attempts away to Manchester United as an opposing manager.
The Londoners failed to register a goal attempt in a subdued first half and rarely looked like recovering the own goal scored by Dawson in the 53rd minute as United kept a fourth successive clean sheet for the first time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United’s win put them back into second place with 57 points from 29 games, one more than Leicester and crucially nine ahead of West Ham. Manchester City are 14 points clear at the top after their 3-0 defeat of Fulham on Saturday.
“We could have been more comfortable towards the end,” Solskjaer said. “We created massive opportunities but the final pass was missing. It was a big weekend for us this.”
Moyes, who spent 10 months as Manchester United manager, said his team had slipped from their recent standards.
“I’m just disappointed we didn’t take something form the game,” he said. “We did better in the last 20 minutes but there was nothing as good as what we’ve done in recent weeks.”
Leicester capitalised on crestfallen Sheffield United who parted company with manager Chris Wilder on Saturday.
Former Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored a superb hat-trick for the Foxes with Ayoze Perez also on target and an own goal by Ethan Ampadu completing the rout.
“Unacceptable performance. No excuses. Embarrassing performance from every single one of us. Very poor,” Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp said.
“The gulf between them and us was men against boys. I’m not saying nobody tried, it was just the quality. We didn’t have a shot on goal, which is embarrassing. If we’re not careful, there will be a few more results like that.”
While Sheffield United are doomed and second-bottom West Bromwich Albion in serious peril, the battle above them is intense and Brighton did themselves a huge favour by beating Southampton in the Premier League for the first time.
Goals by Lewis Dunk and Leandro Trossard clinched the points to move Brighton to 16th with 29 points from 28 games.
Newcastle United are now in 17th spot, two points ahead of Fulham, while Southampton’s dreadful form has seen them slip dangerously close to the dog fight.
They still have a seven-point cushion to Fulham but have lost 10 of their last 12 league games. — Reuters